Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Politico's Mike Allen has a self-negating story up right now. On the one hand, Allen tells us that John McCain intends to make a relatively dull, safe choice for VP:

Senior Republicans are in the dark about who he'll name, although they say former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are prime contenders....

On the other hand, Allen says that the plan is to announce the pick on August 29 -- the day after Barack Obama's big convention speech -- and "a McCain official" thinks that will be a big deal:

"You're going to own the weekend," a McCain official said.

Er, no, John. You're not going to own the weekend. With Tim Pawlenty?

(Yeah, I know -- it could be Lieberman or Ridge, and picking the former, at least, would impress the journalists. But I think the right's current freakout at the prospect of a pro-choicer on the ticket means that the brave, damn-the-torpedoes Maverick will just wimp out and fall in line.)


I assumed McCain was planning to go for the "presumptuousness" angle in response to Obama's stadium speech. I thought he'd mock the speech as grandiose, and try to make his campaign seem much more down-to-earth by comparison (and I've been worried about that line of attack succeeding). But Allen says McCain's announcement will also be in a sports arena -- albeit one (in Ohio) that's approximately one-eighth the size of Obama's venue. This suggests that McCain's approach is going to be pure jealousy: "Oh yeah? You think you're so cool, Mr. Messiah of Change? Well, I'm going to get a big crowd and good press, too!"

In a rational world, having a me-too sports-arena speech would make it impossible for McCain to attack Obama's stadium speech as grandiose. But watch McCain try to have it both ways, and watch the press cooperate: he'll tell his sports-arena crowd that Obama is a celebrity ego-tripper for giving a speech in a sports arena. And, for good measure, he'll suggest that Ohio is all-American, but Denver, somehow, isn't -- no, really, he will. And the press will let him get away with it.


For better or worse, I think plain old garden-variety envy is what sustains the fight in McCain. McCain used to be the media darling. Then he was passed at the turn by George W. Bush and now, in his view, Barack Obama. And McCain, given his biography, is owed media-darling status, dammit! (Michael Crowley's New Republic story about Mark Salter, the McCain speechwriter who coauthors his books, alludes to this: in Salter's view, Obama "violates the McCain code in nearly every way: He is vain but not experienced; his campaign is focused on an individual, not the greater good; he has not demonstrated real courage in life or politics. Meanwhile, a supercilious culture is tearing down Salter's idol." I think the last point is the key one -- for McCain and Salter.)

This is one more reason to fear a McCain presidency. We're just finishing up an eight-year presidency built in large part on envy and resentment. George W. Bush is still angry at the left-leaners he met in the Ivy League as a young man, and when he went to war in Iraq or, say, blocked expansion of SCHIP, that was the battle he was really fighting in his head. It could be argued that the Georgian crisis is happening right now because Bush, rebuffed by Western European allies on the Iraq War, said, in effect, "Oh yeah? You think I don't have any allies? I have plenty of allies -- in the old Soviet bloc! So there!"

This kind of envy has won votes for the GOP since Nixon. It's also led to ugly acts of score-settling since Nixon. We can't have another presidency like that.

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